Saturday, September 24, 2011

Now inside then inside now

Avery's down for her nap.  She was tired and fell asleep fast.  It's so sweet to nurse her to sleep, but especially when she is really tired because she just cuddles in all soft and warm.  Adam took Avery to the neighborhood pool to go swimming this morning and she got all tuckered out.  She likes to go swimming, but lately it seems she is more aware and therefore more nervous in the water.  She prefers to be in the shallow water where she can stand.

(Adam and I are watching some Texas Aggie football while she's sleeping.  BTHO OSU!)

While they were gone, I watched the season premiere of Grey's Anatomy - Oh my gosh you guys, I was crying into my fizzy water by the end at the stuff with the baby.  I can't see or hear anything having to do with babies without getting completely affected by it since Avery was born. 

After I had cancer was the first time I really wanted to become a mother.  I mean, I always knew I wanted kids, but, you know, later.  I was too busy with life then, too wrapped up in making a mark in the world.  Then I got that call: it's cancer.  And suddenly my world collapsed to the size of a pin.  Suddenly I wanted to hug my children.  To know my parents better.  To accept more love instead of keeping it conveniently at arm's reach.  I realized I was missing out on what's really important in life.  Who knows where I would be if I hadn't been diagnosed with cancer.  Probably still single, still in Washington, working on a promising career in public service.  Some days I miss that hypothetical alternate reality.  But mostly I feel so greatful for my wake-up call.  No doubt I am much better off in my real life.

Watching Grey's Anatomy, the last line in the show really got me.  I'll have to paraphrase, but it was something like: You think falling in love is the only thing in the world that can fill your heart to bursting or crush it completely.  And then you become a mother.  So true.  I thought I knew the heights of tender affection or depths of heartbroken despair, but the limits of those emotions got stretched beyond imagination once I became a mother.

Motherhood is such a bipolar condition.  There's so much joy, so much love and happiness.  But beneath it all is an undercurrent of heartbreak.  Or rather, potential heartbreak.  Or perhaps just the fear of it.  And wistfulness too.  You sense the fragility of life - the fleetingness of it.  The impermanence.  Nothing is guaranteed.  You want to hold on: tighter, tighter.  But even as you grasp, laughing and smiling and drunk with love, it's already gone.  Time moves away from you into the past, into memory.  These babies.  They change and become children and then they have children, and I suppose it's all well and right and good.  But.  But.  And we want it, wish for it even; relishing every milestone and step towards independence.  Relieved when they finally sleep on their own all night, or feed themselves, or stop nursing.  But.  It's also heartbreaking.

My dad is in the process of converting old pictures and movies into digital format.  While I was home I got to see not only movies of myself as an infant, but also movies of him as a kid.  It's strange to watch videos of yourself as a baby.  You know it's you, but you have no memory of or connection to the images.  My dad holds two-month-old me on his lap in his bathrobe.  He says, "You're in the movies now, Michelle!"  My grandmother lovingly bathes me in the sink (I fit in the sink!  Me!  So tiny in the sink!), and then I subsequently peed on her lap.  My mom lays on the bed next to me and coos, "Ah-goo!" (just like she did with Avery) and I gaze at her and kick my feet gleefully.  Then I watch my grandmother, not yet twenty(!), so beautiful and mid-century glamorous, playing with my dad and his brother as toddlers.  My strong, heroic father, squealing with laughter and so bursting with energy and happiness, he runs a spontaneous lap around the yard - he can hardly hold still for the video.

Two moments in time, separated by thirty... fifty years, briefly experienced simultaneously.  Now, watching then.  I had just hugged my grandmother on her 75th birthday, and there were a couple of times over the weekend when I was not quite sure she knew exactly who I was.  Certainly, when she saw Avery on our second day there, it was clear she did not remember seeing her the day before.  My glamorous and dignified grandmother, who we are slowly losing to Alzheimer's.  Watching that video of her with her young babies was so heartbreakingly poignant.  Surely that was just a moment ago?  And now here I am, mothering her great-granddaughter, and watching videos of her mothering my father.  It makes me wonder: if we knew, would we still...? 

Life is fragile.  And fleeting.  You want to hold on.  Tighter, tighter.

1 comment:

Nick and Megan said...

Touching post, Michelle. And with Harper, I can finally say I know what you mean. It's strange. Each day, I love her more. But it's not like I loved her less yesterday. It's more like my capacity to love grows every day, but is instantly exceeded by my love for her even as that capacity grows. It's overwhelming in a quiet way.